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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard

Bruce Willis is my Brokeback Mountain. Every summer I end up spending a couple of hours in the back row of the Essex Cinemas having a great time and then I end up feeling guilty later for being swept in once again. I wish I could quit you, Bruce Willis, but you’ve seduced me with your Mortal Thoughts, tricked me into thinking you were The Last Boy Scout and you’ve kept my Mercury Rising all the way through Armageddon. No matter how mindless the movie might be, that coy smile of yours lures me right back in. You’ve taken me Hostage and dragged me through The Siege; you even convinced me to change my gambling habits and always bet on Lucky Number Sleven. That’s right, Slevin. See what you’ve done to my world, Bruce Willis! And now this. You know I can’t resist your most famous character, John McClane. I’ve loved McClane since you first introduced him to me in Die Hard back in 1988, and here we are 19 years later and you are enticing me ~ just one more time ~ to rendezvous with McClane for Live Free or Die Hard. Damn you, Willis! You know I can’t stay away!

So here I was, yes, once again in the back row at the
Essex Cinemas, loaded with Diet Pepsi and freshly-popped corn, a little nervous, but ready to see how in the world John McClane was weathering life after all these years. The last time we saw him was in 1995’s Die Hard: With a Vengeance. He was 40 at the time. I could hardly wait to now find out how a 52 year old John McClane was handling the craziness of the world today. If anybody could kick some nutball’s butt, I’ve still got my money on him.

So the movie opens with a grumpy McClane being a very overprotective father to his now college age daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead; Grindhouse). Right away I find myself distracted, thinking about the fact that Bruce always has such pretty daughters in his movies, which only reminds me about his real life brood, who, sadly, were not blessed with the best of ex-wife Demi Moore’s genes. In fact, the oldest daughter, Rumer, is rumored to want a career of her own in films, and all I can imagine is a tragic repetitive cycle of Sci Fi Channel grade horror movies with her as the horror. But I digress.

In no time McClane is dispatched by his boss to bring in a computer hacker for questioning, and when he arrives at the kid’s house in the middle of the night they get shot at about a gazillion times
before either one can ask what is going on. The hacker, Matt Farrell (Justin Long; Accepted), is so clueless he thinks the men who demolished his entire home did it looking for McClane. He can’t imagine why anyone would want to off him, but that becomes apparent pretty quickly too. Farrell was one of eight low-rent hackers who had been recruited to write computer code for an unknown source and now all seven of the others have been killed, with only Farrell escaping a one-night slaughter of the others all across the country. Apparently the pieces of code, when assembled, could ignite a “Fire Sale”, the wholesale breakdown of all communications, utilities, internet, and financial operations in the country. What fun!

So this disaster unfolds, and the results are spectacular. As McClane is quick to point out, if it took the authorities five days to get water to the Superdome in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, you can just imagine the ramifications of an entire country without water, lights, tv and radio. This, of course, is exactly what the mastermind behind it, Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant; tv’s “Deadwood”), has in mind, but instead of relishing the chaos he has created, he becomes fixated on getting rid of that one “loose end”, Farrell, which he rapidly realizes turns into a much bigger problem ~ Farrell’s new best friend, McClane.

The next 90 minutes or so require that you basically forget reality exists because the plot has more
holes than Swiss cheese and you also pretty much have to accept the fact that John McClane must have come from the planet Krypton as a baby. He is indestructible. He does things no real life 20 year old could do without dangerous injury, and yet he escapes unharmed from one cataclysm after another and the old fart is almost as old as I am. Damn he’s good! I fell down half a flight of stairs last year and it was months before I could walk normally again. Meanwhile John manages to surf his way down a burning, crashing jet (I’m not kidding!) and then slide across a quarter mile of collapsing multi-level freeway with nary a scratch. No wonder I can’t quit you, McClane!

Live Free or Die Hard (dumb title, and it really has no relevance to the movie) has many flaws, but for fans of action there are a guaranteed explosion, shooting, car wreck and/or fight to the death every five minutes or so and isn’t that what it is really all about? I do have to say that the inclusion of Maggie Q (Mission Impossible III) as Gabriel’s girlfriend/computer whiz/enforcer is a bit much though. I mean, c’mon, why is it that whenever an Asian woman is in an action movie she always has to be cruel, calculating, seductive, and a master (mistress?) of every martial art there is? Just once I’d like to see an Asian beauty that doesn’t turn into an assassin at the first opportunity she gets. It never bodes well for her chances to make it to the sequel.

And speaking of sequels, and you know you are already wondering if Bruce is considering one, he
does manage to save the day (Big Shocker!) and he lives to Die Even Harder if the studio offers him enough money. The question is whether you’ll want to see another after Live Free or Die Hard, and my guess is you will. Thanks to Justin Long’s very entertaining contribution as both sidekick and comic relief as much as to Bruce’s muscle-flexing, this is one installment in the series that makes you realize that if you Die Hard once, then you can reincarnate at least three more times, see the humor in it all, and even feel less guilty about enjoying yourself along the way. He just better make sure to bring the kid along for the laughs.

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